Dowser is welcoming new writers/contributors; please send us a note at with a writing sample.

Weekly Roundup: New Standards for Impact Investing, Solutions in East Africa and Citizens Step Up To The Plate

   /   Aug 5th, 2011Africa, East Africa, News, Weekly Roundup

Didn’t have time to read the news this week? Every week, we report on the conversations surrounding the big issues in the world of social entrepreneurship.

GIIRS Revs Up For Launch

Though SocEnt news this week seems to have taken its August holiday, we did find a few interesting items to report.

The first is that GIIRS, B Lab’s new rating system for impact investors, has officially begun its campaign to launch. Buzz about GIIRS (pronounced “gears”) has been bubbling since SOCAP 2009, when it was announced that the new rating system would compare the social, environmental and community impact of different organizations specifically for investors. Beyond Profit  posted a nice article back in March that explored the beta version in-depth.

But now, the ratings system is officially up. Since we found a couple different versions of the story online, we called up Jay Coen Gilbert, co-founder of B Lab, to find out for ourselves.

Here’s how what you need to know: as of last week, any company or fund in the world can obtain a GIIRS rating. All certified B Corporations will receive a rating for free, and all other companies can obtain a GIIRS rating by completing GIIRS Impact Assessment on the GIIRS site. Verification is done by Deloitte before a final GIIRS rating is obtained and used by the company or fund to help them raise money.

Then, at the Clinton Global Initiative September 20-22 in New York City, GIIRS will enjoy its full launch. According to GOOD, 25 pilot funds will also announce their intention to require their investments to have GIIRS ratings.

Gilbert says that going live pre-CGI launch allows companies and funds maximum visibility to a growing number of impact investors. And the ultimate hope is that will give investors the tools they need to invest more money in high impact social enterprises around the world

Developments In The Horn of Africa

As Somalis pour into refugee camps to escape famine, the world continues to grapple with what to do. While, the African Union has postponed its meeting to discuss funding for the crisis, which has now spread to three additional regions of Somalia, Sudan promised “substantial” aid to the ailing region. China promised $14 million. And the United States has decided to relieve its sanctions on the al Shabaab terrorist group that controls the region, so that aid can flow into the area.

But the question at the core of all of these moves–how do we stop this from happening again?

The devastating famine in Somalia is an example of the complexity of environmental and socio-political problems, and people have begun to discuss long-term solutions and prevention. While some blamed climate change, and  activists in Australia protested their coal industry in the name of suffering Somalis, Andrew Revkin argued in the New York Times that little can be done until the political conflict dictated by al Shabaab is addressed.

Others tackled different sides of the problem. Vinod Thomas, a Director General at the World Bank, proposed two strategies in the Huffington Post: “Supporting the development of reliable early warning systems and of flexible social safety nets to protect the most vulnerable groups is one,” he writes. “Strengthening agricultural and agribusiness systems by improving farmer’s access to drought resistant varieties of crops, improved rain water harvesting technologies and information from weather forecasting systems, while continuing to increase investment in irrigation development is the other.”

On NPR, Nobel Laureate and Green Belt Movement founder Wangari Maathai noted the importance of settlement patterns in preventing drought-induced famine. The Christian Science Monitor reported that Ethiopia also sees voluntary settlement of semi-nomads into villages as one potential long-term solution to the East African drought crisis.

And finally this week, we launched a series on preventative solutions to famine. We kicked it off with a report on an innovative research project that will make rainfall data available to African scientists so that they can better understand the implications of climate change in their region. Stay tuned throughout the week for an examination of other strategies to address the famine.

Japanese and Israeli Citizens Step Up

A couple interesting pieces of citizen activity to report this week.
The first comes from Japan, where citizens have begun to doubt their governments’ reassurance that nuclear cleanup is moving along. Though Japanese state minister Goshi Hosono announced a new Nuclear Safety Agency on Friday, many citizens have started using their own radiation detectors to measure toxins near their homes. As the New York Times reports, this movement is not only indicative of technology’s ability to empower citizens, but in the case of Japan, it’s also a sign of cultural change in a society where people typically expect government to care for them.

And in Israel, protests over high rent are bringing together people of different walks of life as some 150,000 people – called the largest social protest in Israel’s history by one Hebrew language newspaper, the Ma’ariv daily – have created a tent city in Tel Aviv to demand that their government address the untenable cost of living.

What’s interesting about these protests is that they are nominally targeting rent costs but, as pointed out in an Op-Ed in the New York Times, the underlying issue is the staggering amount of money that Israel spends on maintaining their settlements – 15 percent of state spending for 4 percent of the population – due to the high cost of security.

According to the BBC, the protesters’ anger is rooted in another price hike – that of cottage cheese, an Israeli breakfast staple. Israel’s director of the Ministry of Finance has resigned in the protest’s wake, and Prime Minister Netanyahu announced on Sunday that he would send a delegation to meet with the protesters. The protesters are calling for a massive gathering in the streets this coming Saturday.

Random Weekend Reading:

This week was fairly quiet, but we still found a few beach pieces:

  • The NY Times emphasizes the value of urban farming with a story on a hydroponic farm in Brooklyn.
  • A list of five questions every nonprofit should be asking in relation to the debt ceiling deal via the Community Wealth Blog
  • The Society for International Development explores public-private partnerships as the future of international development. The days of nonprofits thinking they can work separately from the private sector “are over,” said one attendee.
  • In the Huffington Post, Jonathan Lewis discussed the rare July merger of SJF and Investors’ Circle – and the conditions that made this move possible in the impact investing space.
New Reports, Contests and Events:
  • The National Bureau of Economic Research released a report drawing links between a corporation’s harm and good. And on a similar note, The Chronicle of Philanthropy released a great data visualization last week that lets you track charitable spending of large corporations.
  • A recent report from OxFam explains how the Horn of Africa Drought may affect climate change and food security.
  • OpenIDEO is turning one-year-old, and they are asking users to submit ideas between now and December about how the online platform for designing collaborative solutions can be improved.

Contributed reporting by Blair Hickman

One Response

  1. [...] seen this same need in the Arab Spring, in the unrest in London, in Israel, in the Phillippines and in America on Twitter and even, somewhat, in the Tea Party. Though few [...]